Prosumer, prosumption, prosumerism – basic definitions (pt 3)

Prosumption is by my concern the most useful term to explain the prosumerism shifts we could observe in the nearest time.

Let me show you why.

First, the definition:

Prosumption is a model of consumption which bases on production, or co-produciton of the consumed commodity.

As you can see, the definition is very simple, almost self-evident. However one might be misled by its simplicity, for it assumes a certain presupposition: prosumption is as different from consumption as it is similar. Prosumption eventually leads to consumption, but it differs from the latter by means of consumption. In prosumption the means of consumption are in nature means of production. Let’s take an example: Stylefactory.

Stylefactory is an online shop where household accessories have to be co-produced by the consumers in order to be made purchaseable. Co-production of the items consists in voting on certain designs to be “made” or “dropped”; if an item gets enough votes, it gets made and distributed via the shop. Then in order to obtain the item, the consumer has to buy it. As you can see, before “traditional” market exchange concerning money there comes a phase of consumer activity which in “traditional” models of product life was reserved for companies making a decision whether to accept the design or not (in perspective of the company, you could call this type of prosumption outsourcing to the customer). So everything in the unique experience of Stylefactory shop is in fact prosumption – before consumption, there comes production. You can find a similar idea behind Uniqlo’s Lucky Counter.

However not every item in Stylefactory has to be co-produced by every single consumer with a desire to buy it – some items are already voted “made” in the past and are ready for purchase without further voting. If you need a “rougher” example of consumption take Ponoko. It’s a personal factory system which allows you to professionally produce your own designs – take a peek on how it works for further details.

Concerning the methodological problems of the “prosumer” term, I find the term “prosumption” a lot more useful (at least for now). Using the term “prosumption” is a question of finding a border between  the actions of producing and consuming, may it be quantative or qualitative. What is more important, “prosumption” is in my view prior to “prosumer”, analogically to describing a person by its actions.

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